Kentucky football: Is Wan'Dale Robinson having the best season ever by a Kentucky receiver?
Forever is a long time. Even in Kentucky football, which admittedly has had its fair share (and then some) of 2-9 or 3-8 seasons. Even in Kentucky football, which didn’t employ a modern passing quarterback until Tim Couch’s epic 1997 season. But still, the question remains: Is Wan’Dale Robinson having the best season ever by a Kentucky receiver? Let’s take a deeper dive.
Currently: 71, 7th best all time at UK
Record: 90, James Whalen, 1999
So it is a little obvious, but wide receivers (and tight ends, in the case of the underrated Whalen) catch passes. Who caught the most passes in a single season? Whalen, who had an astonishing season as a safety valve for game-managing QB Dusty Bonner in 1999, is UK’s standard bearer. The top number by a receiver is 85 by Craig Yeast in 1998. Kentucky legend Randall Cobb holds 3rd place with 84 catches in 2010.
With 71 catches in 9 games, Robinson is on pace to grab this record. With 4 games remaining, 5 catches per game will best Whalen’s mark. Only once this season has Robinson failed to catch 5 passes, when he caught 4 against Florida. If he’s healthy, he’s got this.
Currently: 825 yards, 8th
Record: 1,311, Yeast, 1998
Of course, catching a ton of passes isn’t good for much if it doesn’t move the sticks. Robinson’s 825 yards in 9 games put him on pace to at least reach 2nd place in the UK record book, which is 1,041 yards by Steve Johnson in 2007. Robinson would need to average just 55 yards per game for the remainder of the season to best that mark. The only game when Robinson didn’t reach that total was against Georgia, when he had 53. That said, Yeast’s amazing 1998 season is still a long haul. To reach that mark, Wan’Dale needs to average 122 yards per game for the rest of the season. He has reached that total only twice. Robinson is probably shooting for 2nd in this particular stat, although he should be the 2nd UK receiver to have a 1,100-yard season.
Record: 14, Yeast, 1998
Here’s a spot where Robinson has significant work to do to measure up. Seven UK receivers have had 10-plus touchdowns in a season, going back to Al Bruno in 1950. With 6 scores in 9 games, Robinson is on pace to finish with 9. Even if he ups his pace, Yeast’s record is almost certainly out of reach.
Currently: Crucial early TD against Florida, best game yet against Tennessee in tough loss
Record: Yeast (1997 TD to beat Alabama; 1998 97-yard score in the Swamp; 1998 catch from a falling Couch to beat Mississippi State), Johnson (2007 catches to beat Louisville and No. 1 LSU), etc.
Robinson is still waiting for his big moment, and frankly, unless he has to pull the Louisville game out of the fire or he makes some major bowl heroics, he’s got his work cut out for him. Yeast and Johnson both had multiple all-time plays. Robinson’s TD against Florida is a nice start, but he has work to do here.
Record: Whalen was a first-team All-American in 1999, Lynn Bowden (partially as a WR) was in 2019
Kentucky has never actually had a consensus All-American at wide receiver. That said, Robinson feels more like an all-SEC pick than an All-American pick right now. Which actually only enhances his case as UK’s best ever. Bowden is the only guy who made the list, and that was really for his all-around insane season as a receiver/quarterback/kick returner.
The final verdict
When all is said and done, barring injury, Robinson will easily have one of the best seasons ever by a UK wide receiver. But the best? Sure, he’ll probably end up with the all-time record for receptions, and he’ll probably be 2nd in receiving yardage. But probably the biggest argument against him is a lack of superstar moments. That’s certainly not all on Robinson — Kentucky is still a run-first team, and had the Wildcats gotten him 1 more reception against UT, he might have had his all-time moment.
In any case, among the many things he’ll be playing for is a good argument for the best season ever. If he can put up another 25 catches, pick up 300-400 more yards, nab a couple of TDs and maybe have that epic moment, likely in the bowl game, it might be his to claim. He’s certainly in the picture, but like Kentucky football, the real question is how will he finish.